This analytic does not map directly to M. Azzara's essay but in addressing the questions I will reflect on her "Description" and images #1 (Archive Toxics 3) and #2 (Archive Toxics).
What is striking about the visualization #1 is the presentation of surfeit—all these cataloged containers of preservation that assure viewers our past is well-tended. M. Azzara's visualization calls attention to the absences of documentation of the lives of Black pioneers in early Los Angeles history. Her work examines these absences as a form of toxics.
Image #2 is M. Azzara's response to this toxicity by creating an superimposing the spectral presence of Biddy Mason in a photo of white settlers.
These visualizations advance ethnographic insight by revealing the silences in our histories and further suggest a way to counter silences through imaginative (productive) retellings while problematizing archives as toxic places.
This image draws attention to how a discourse of how urban placemaking (and attendant marketing) is bound up with a politics of race. The image directly represents how a largely white population will be discursively linked to "best places to live". The production of place through race is arguably emblematic of how non-white populations become symbolic of 'pollution' thereby associated with the 'diminishing' of the liveability of a place. Such populations become, as Mary Douglas puts it, constructed as "matter out of place."
The image is disurbingly easy on the eyes, stray plastic bottles, the rubber slipper, all carpeting the forest floor in an unhealthy balance with the roots and leaves of the mangrove forest. The tidal interplay of land, river and sea, is as much of an ecological marvel as it is a route for plastic, and as an extension the reach of human activity, that equally governs natural ecosystems.
This visualization and caption advance ethnographic insight by providing a striking map of the uneven distribution of toxic release in Los Angeles and the surrounding area, and in particular, illustrating how activist translation of multiple forms of publicly available environmental data together problematize the clustering of racialized populations and heavy industry. Such a map is part of a historical archive of how toxic data has come to be represented in the United States in the wake of Bhopal. Its message exposes the massive scale of interrogating toxicant emission and movements, by showing the regional infrastructure of toxic exposure to racialized populations across multiple counties. Its sentiment troubles the systematized, not accidental, uneven exposure of racialized populations. It questions the intersection of industrial zoning and residential areas, and the toxicological frameworks used to justify particular arrangements, such as minimum buffer zone distances.
This visualization advances ethnographic insight by bringing together questions of the materiality of post-coloniality with questions of air toxicity impacted by significant cultural events such as Diwali. It raises important considerations about ‘non-molecular’ toxics and the sentiment that they are difficult to trace, as they are always on the move. By publically illustrating the density of trapped PM 2.5 particles over a relatively short period of time, it creates a sort of monument of atmosphere which stands in contrast to the colonial war monument in the background of the image.
This visualization and caption advances ethnographic insight by being a sort of archive of both the afterlives of the Buick City brownfield site, and the Flint water crisis. The blank snow represents the dual challenges of picturing the movement of toxicants under and through the earth and water, and the fence of building the local relationships which facilitate processes of not just environmental remediation, but also the private barriers between corporations and community building and engagement in late industrial landscapes.
This visualization and caption advance ethnographic insight by confronting two very different historical narratives—one, a white supremacist romanticization of a neighborhood, and two, the systematic targetting of SRO buildings to transition them to privatized land using oppressive and coercive tactics against low-income, racialized tenants. The image’s sentiment is bold as it creates the effect of the blurring of both histories, while the orange targetting of SROs suggests a violence in how particular buildings undergo systematic forced evictions.
This visualization and caption advance ethnographic insight by giving a message of confrontation across two very different historical narratives—one, a white supremacist romanticization of a neighborhood, and two, the systematic targetting of SRO buildings to transition them to privatized land using oppressive and coercive tactics against low-income, racialized tenants. The image’s sentiment is bold as it creates the effect of the blurring of both histories, while the orange targetting of SROs suggests a violence in how particular buildings undergo systematic forced evictions.
I am particularly struck by the relationship between knowledge and embodiment that emerges from the image and captioning. The ethnographic framing is really evocative, showing that popular narratives around chemical industrialization (such as fishermen framed solely as victims or that toxicity can be avoided or undone) are simply irrelevant.
This visualization introduces me to the concept of shadow places—boundary zones whose histories of violence and extractive capitalism are obscured. The photo offers a striking juxtaposition to this concept. It is a visualization that is dependent on the larger photo essay for context and interrogates the interlaced meanings of masculinity, leisure and pollution in a post-industrial coastal site.